Thanks to the Biden Administration's COVID relief plan and the heroic work of healthcare and other frontline workers, we are finally on the path to recovery. But as Marylanders return to our jobs, schools, and communities, we know we cannot just go back to the way things were. President Biden’s American Jobs Plan presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rebuild and modernize our economy. We must build back better than before.
With the American Jobs Plan we can repair our broken infrastructure, rebuild domestic manufacturing, and create thousands of good paying jobs for Marylanders. But it must be an economy built for the future. That means we must tackle the interwoven crises of climate change, economic inequality, and racial injustice. The pandemic brought to light historical disparities faced by Black and Brown communities, including environmental injustices from polluters, unsafe water from lead pipes, inconsistent access to electricity because of outdated power grids, and buildings inadequately prepared for extreme weather.
More than four out of five Marylanders are ready for clean energy and environmental justice investments, and we support Congressional action to address climate change. We need the American Jobs Plan’s bold investments to ensure we lift up communities that have been overlooked for too long, replace crumbling infrastructure like our transportation systems, improve water quality, and repair our electric grid.
Maryland has made vital progress to build a stronger, more equitable transportation system, but we urgently need to do more. We lead the nation with the largest electric school bus fleet in the country, yet the system itself is ranked as the least reliable system in the country by many measures. We were proud to pass the Maryland Transit Safety & Investment Act, but disappointed to see Governor Hogan veto this important piece of legislation, which would have mandated minimum funding levels in Maryland Transit Administration’s (MTA’s) budget to begin to close the $2 billion gap in the MTA maintenance backlog. We will work to overturn his veto to ensure MTA has this crucial funding, and will still need guaranteed federal investments to aggressively put our state and our nation on the path towards accessible, reliable, clean energy transportation.
Over the last several years, we’ve watched while communities, particularly Black communities, have suffered from undrinkable water in their own homes, and have seen unacceptable amounts of lead in Maryland schools. In Maryland schools as of June 3 of this year, 4.1 percent of water sample results from 23 public school systems, 236 nonpublic schools, and eight charter schools had over 20 parts per billion of lead. No amount of lead is safe, and these levels are at least four times higher than the 5 parts per billion action level as mandated under Maryland’s Safe School Drinking Water Act of 2021. Our children deserve clean water, and no amount of lead is safe for consumption for any child. The American Jobs Plan will replace 100% of lead water pipes in the country, and it includes a $111 billion national investment to ensure clean, safe drinking water is a right in all communities.
We know these issues are only made worse by climate change. Marylanders know all too well the consequences of extreme weather, especially along our coasts and shorelines. Stormwater overflow from a Pepco power plant continues to flood Eagle Harbor, a historically Black waterfront community near the Patuxent River, drastically changing and eroding the coastal landscape. Addressing the problems caused by climate changes requires getting to the root of the problem, and the American Jobs Plan will do just that by putting the United States on a pathway to 100% carbon-free energy by 2035.
Maryland communities have suffered too long from the health impacts of pollution. From industrial polluters and landfills on the Patuxent River, to air pollution from diesel-power transit causing respiratory illnesses and asthma in our children, we see the consequences every day.
I’m proud to have joined over 1,200 local elected officials across all 50 states to tell Congress we cannot wait to pass an economic recovery plan centered around clean energy, climate, justice, and good paying union jobs.
Infrastructure should be about building for the future. You can’t do that without addressing the climate crisis and environmental injustice. Congress must pass the American Jobs Plan. We cannot wait any longer. It’s time to get to work.
Delegate Jazz Lewis, a lifelong resident of Prince George’s County, represents Maryland’s 24th Legislative District.